Johannesburg - The Lions look set to name inspirational captain Warren Whiteley in their starting line-up on Thursday for this weekend’s Super Rugby final showdown against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
According to the SuperSport website, Whiteley was a late addition to the touring squad on Sunday after missing the semifinal because of a calf strain but coach Johan Ackermann has been impressed with his improvement and is set to bring the captain back for the big game.
Whiteley saw the medical team before departure on Sunday and was cleared to travel with the side, but no clear decision was taken then on his availability.
Given his influence on the team, and the leadership he brings in the preparation for the final, it isn’t any doubt the Lions would want to have him alongside the players when they prepare for the final game.
But now Ackermann will make a final decision on Thursday whether Whiteley will play or not, with the captain needing to be 100 percent fit to ensure he gets a chance to take the field this weekend.
“Warren was cleared by the medical team on Sunday,” Ackermann said via telephone from New Zealand on Tuesday.
“The medical team were happy with his power and the injury and while we only had a walk-through of our game plan on the field today to get out of the hotel, Warren stayed behind and did a session with the physio where he ran as part of the rehabilitation process.”
Ackermann said the team would not take chances on Whiteley but would give him as much time as possible to be fit for the final.
“We have two days to make a final decision and we will make that after our final training session but at the moment it looks good that he could be in the final 23.”
The Lions arrived safely late on Monday night (NZ time) and had a late sleep in after all the travelling with a light walk through on the field and a gym session on day one of their build-up.
“Today we just had to get the guys out of the hotel, to get the bodies moving. There is an excitement there but credit to our senior group of players there is also a calmness there this week. We know the excitement will build as we get closer to the weekend but the guys are touring together for the third year now, and they have fun touring together.”
If Whiteley is included it is likely to be for Ruan Ackermann, who covered 8th man position while Whiteley missed last weekend’s game.